A traffic light at the entrance of Austin High School on Modaus Road Southwest may not be installed until November, said Decatur City Schools project manager Lee Edminson.
He said the project will take longer than anticipated because the mast arm, which hangs over the road and holds the light, isn’t something the Alabama Department of Transportation keeps in its inventory.
“It’s going to take a while to get this,” Edminson said Tuesday while updating school board members on the project.
The issue of whether to install a light at the location has been debated since 2015 when the school board announced that the front entrance would be off Modaus Road. The school board purchased the 77.5-acre site at the corner of Modaus Road Southwest and Shady Grove Lane in 2014.
A 2017 study by traffic consultant Skipper Inc. didn’t recommend putting a light on Modaus Road, but Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen disagreed with the study’s conclusion because he worried about students leaving the school.
“Protecting our schools is a foremost priority to the Decatur Police Department,” he said Wednesday in a written statement. “The installation of the light will help us ensure that the Austin school zone is safe for students, parents, and educators entering and exiting the premises.”
The school opened in August 2018 and there were two accidents involving students at the Modaus Road site during the 2018-19 school year.
“We need to get it done as quickly as we can,” board member Donnie Lane said. He represents the Austin area.
Officials unveiled plans for the traffic signal in May and said there could be a lengthy wait for delivery of a pole for the project.
DCS didn’t anticipate needing the light when the new high school opened, but Superintendent Michael Douglas said turning left onto Modaus Road when school gets out is a student safety issue that has to be corrected.
“I’ve had some parents to call me about this,” he said.
The City Council is bidding the project because they have the rights of way and own the road where the light is being installed.
Douglas said the school district is providing the money from its general fund, with the cost estimated at between $85,000 and $125,000.
DCS and city officials will have a pre-bid conference about the project on Jan. 23 and let it out for bids Feb. 4.
“It’s not as simple as going out there and putting a light up,” said Edminson, who added that two companies have expressed an interest in bidding on the project.